Unusual stocking stuffers: how about a loaf of holiday bread?

Perhaps you're a traditionalist who enjoys the same breads for the holiday season year after year. Or maybe you're always on the lookout for new, unusual recipes for holiday breads that don't necessarily feature any of the ``big three'': pumpkin, mincemeat, and cranberry. If you think it would be fun for a change to cater to different tastes with a wide variety of breads, try serving these at breakfast to holiday guests, or present a loaf to a host or hostess, or bake some in miniature loaf pans and slip one into someone's Christmas stocking.

Here are a few helpful points to keep in mind that will make your baking session easier and more successful:

Always preheat the oven to give the bread the initial boost necessary to make it rise.

Have ingredients at room temperature. Batter will be easier to mix and baking time will be less.

Mix liquids into dry ingredients just before baking. The baking soda and powder are what make the bread rise and react when wet.

Don't overmix. Quick breads should have a coarse texture.

Cool completely before cutting, unless recipe specifies otherwise. Breads will slice better, especially if they contain nuts or fruits. Pineapple-Macadamia Nut Bread 11/2 cups macadamia nuts 1/2 cup butter 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel 21/2 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 81/4-ounce can crushed pineapple in syrup 1/4 cup milk

Chop macadamia nuts. Grease 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped nuts, then 1 tablespoon sugar. Cream butter with 3/4 cup sugar, egg, vanilla, and lemon peel until light and fluffy.

Combine flour with baking powder, soda, and salt. Blend into creamed mixture by hand, alternately with undrained pineapple and milk, mixing only until all flour is moistened. Stir in remaining nuts. Turn into prepared pan.

Bake on lowest shelf of preheated 350-degree F. oven 60 to 70 minutes, just until loaf tests done. Let stand in pan 10 minutes, then turn out on wire rack to cool. Makes 1 loaf. Chocolate-Applesauce Tea Bread 11/2 cups flour 11/3 cups sugar 1/3 cup cocoa 1 teaspoon baking soda 3/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/3 cup margarine or shortening, softened 2 eggs 1/2 cup applesauce (sweetened or unsweetened) 1/3 cup water 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate pieces 1/3 cup chopped nuts (optional)

In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt, baking powder, margarine, eggs, applesauce, and water. Stir together. Beat 1/2 minute with electric mixer on low speed, then about 3 minutes on high speed. Stir in chocolate pieces and nuts.

Pour into greased and floured 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan or two 7-by-31/4-by21/4-inch pans.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 50 to 60 minutes, or until bread tests done. Cool in pan about 5 minutes before turning out on wire rack.

Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves. Orange Marmalade Bread 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour 3 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon soda 11/2 cups orange marmalade 1 egg, beaten 3/4 cup orange juice 1/4 cup cooking oil 1 cup chopped nuts

Measure, then sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and soda into a large mixing bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup marmalade.

Combine remaining 1-1/4 cups marmalade, beaten egg, orange juice, and cooking oil. Add to flour mixture, stirring until moistened. Stir in chopped nuts. Pour into 2 greased and floured medium-size loaf pans (73/8-by-35/8-by-21/4 inches) or 4 miniature pans.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree F. oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove bread from pans and place on a baking sheet. Spread tops with remaining marmalade and return to oven for about 1 minute or till glazed. Cool on rack.

Makes 2 medium-size or 4 mini-size loaves. Herbed Cheese Bread 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon dried basil 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano Pinch thyme 1/4 cup butter or margarine 2 eggs 1/4 cup honey 3/4 cup milk 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Grease 8-inch round cake pan.

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add herbs and stir until well blended. With pastry blender or two knives used scissors-fashion, cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. In small bowl with a fork, beat eggs, honey, milk, and cheese until blended. Stir liquid into dry ingredients.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly. Cool in pan. Cut into wedges.

Serves 12.

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